Stephen Manders is a star on the rise ‘Under His Wings’

Stephen Manders is the son of a charismatic Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) preacher and so it should be of little wonder that he too is blessed with a magnetism that he is able to attract, blend and lead others in a similar fashion, albeit his platform does not having him stood at a podium, spewing words of God’s wisdom and righteousness, even as the pair’s messages are congruent.

Rather the younger Manders’ delivery method is to design and coax words out of groups in rhythmic harmonies that soothe, encourage and enlighten still more that might lend an ear to such works, of the wonderland that is the kingdom of God.

Born in Florida, Manders came to live in Bermuda at the age of four, where he was enrolled at the SDA designed Christian school, Bermuda Institute (BI), where he completed his primary and secondary education. It was also at the Southampton institution that he began to wage into the field of music, which would ultimately become a full-fledged dive into ministering via gospel songs and melodies.

“When I was in second grade is when I kind of got a little glimpse of my future in music with Mr Owen Simons,” explained Manders. “I was in the choir and I was always interested in watching how he directed and how he played.
“I would always try to get around him as much as I could and then I think at around age 15 I started playing the piano.

“I started playing for my dad’s church, where I was playing for the youth choir and he kind of  took me under his wing and showed me a lot of good stuff about music and I eventually left and went on to Oakwood University when I was 19.
“I chose to go there because it was a good music school, had a lot of good music there and I wanted to continue on a path in music.

“As well, at BI I was in the choir, which gave me a lot of the fundamentals in my Christian education. And also with music and all the background that I have now, I built my fundamentals in Bermuda for sure.


At the historically Black SDA university in Huntsville, Alabama, the only HBCU owned and operated by the religious organisation Manders studied Public Relations and received his Bachelors of Arts Degree in 2012.

He currently serves as the Assistant Minister of Music for the Oakwood University Church under the direction of Dr. Carlton P. Byrd and Musical Director for New Life Baptist church, Pastor Antoyne L. Green. He has also served as Music Director for various conferences such as the Spring into Praise Music Conference 2018 and the Bermuda Festival of Hymns 2020.

Manders’ passions include writing, playing and arranging music and jhis has an impressive list of artists he has written musical pieces for, including the Spring Into Praise Mass Choir (2009), Dynamic Praise, Oakwood University’s Aeolians and renowned solo artists, counting the likes of Sean Tillery, Patrick Lundy and Kevin Terry among those he;’s collabortated with.

The critically acclaimed ‘Under His Wings’, written by Manders and stirringly performed online under his directorship in the midst of the Covid pandemic by Oakwood Church Virtual Choir with elite soprano Grace Dorsey Landy, was published with GIA Publications 2015, and he has also produced music for artists such as James Fortune (Album: ‘Dear Future Me’ Song: ‘You Still Love Me [Interlude]).
With his current group Stephen Manders & Decree have been released three singles; ‘Be Still’ feat. Naomi Parchment, ‘Adoration’ which has reached over one million viewers via platforms such as BET and The Shade Room, and the single, ‘Heaven’.

Mander’s actioned mission in life is to write music that brings Glory to God and touches lives Globally. “When I got to Oakwood I started playing for some of the school choirs and stuff like that, and that’s when I really started to develop my own fingerprint in music and, kind of, taking leadership on campus and a lot of people started looking up to me,” said Manders. “With Owen having gone to Oakwood and a lot of people coming from Bermuda to Oakwood because it had a reputation for producing good musicians and stuff like that, so I kind of just followed in his footsteps was able to get involved with the choir that he started out there called Dynamic Praise.”

And this was not a run of the mill choir, but truly special is Dynamic Praise, which was organized in the fall of 1988 and has become an integral part of Oakwood University’s heritage, having shared the stages with artists such as Richard Smallwood, Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans, Dottie Peoples, Byron Cage, Lamar Campbell, and Kelly Price, while having an an alumnus roster consisting of such artist such as Take 6, Virtue, Sean Simmonds and Duawne Starling.

“I was a just a musician at first that played with the choir and a couple of years later I ended up being director of the choir and then I started writing music for the choir,” said Manders of his rise within the construct. “I actually started writing music music in 2009, so two years after I was in college I started writing music and the choir started to sing my songs and I brought some of my music back home and some of the songs have been sung by the Inspirational Choir.

“Oakwood is really where I started to develop as a songwriter and musician.”
Manders’ walk has not always been so focused with the will of God, with many missteps made as a teenager, while he struggled to resist the peer-pressure and temptations among the context of a secular society where Black males are increasingly endangered as a species segment, seemingly surplus to requirements of western society.

Not unlike his father, Dr Kenneth Manders, who has many times over told the story of his own transgressions as a dreadlocked practitioner driven to commit deeds carnal and bathed in unrighteousness, Manders eventually found the route back to salvation with help and support from his dad.
“My father is president of the Seventh-Day Adventist Bermuda conference,” said Manders. “He’s always been like a staple and a leader in the church and you know, being a pastor’s kid you’re kind of forced to be active in and doing things with the church.

“But I always enjoyed it, even though it was never forced on me. I really felt like I enjoyed accompanying his ministry through music, so he would do his preaching thing and I would do the music thing and it was always like a partnership and I admired his leadership and how people gravitated towards him.
“He inspires people and I do believe that part of my charisma does come from him. Not the musical side, but maybe the charismatic side.”

And Manders had some advice for young Black males who might find themselves trapped of feeling confined within the negative culture of anti-social behaviour that continues to pervade that particular segment of local society, which is to seek the presence and counsel of those that have already traversed the minefields of destruction and come out, may be bruised and scarred but unbowed.
Said Manders: “Peer-pressure’s going to be everywhere, especially for us as Black men because there’s a stigma when it comes to Black men, that we’re not going to be anything or I’m not good for anything or I’m only good for the streets and stuff.

“And I think it’s a mentality, that if you allow yourself to fall into that mindset and you just keep on that path, and then you kind of set yourself in a direction based on how you think.
“Because you don’t let your environment change and control you it’s you who should choose and control your environment. But it’s really how you think. You want to change that mindset in that you tell yourself how you can do more and be more and that you don’t have to follow the path of some of your friends, who may be going in the wrong direction or even where you’re family history might have been.

“But you can set a new path for yourself based on the people you associate with, the type of things and material that you read and listen to. “And it doesn’t always have to be Christian or gospel stuff, but things like self motivation and motivational speakers. There’s a lot of different information available that can help encourage you to change your mind and things you can do to make yourself productive.

“I believe that when you have idle hands that’s when you a lot of trouble. I have had my share of troubles too, it’s not like I’ve always been on the right path, but I made the decision to make sure that the purpose and the greatness that’s within me I bring all of that out of me, even through the challenges, because cuz I have a lot of health challenges myself and a lot of things that I’ve dealt with, but you can choose to let your challenges overtake you or you can choose the right mindset and overtake your challenges.”

Click in the link below for a full worship experience. A must listen, stirring rendition of the hymn written and directed by Bermudas own Stephen Manders, performed by Oakwood Church Virtual Choir with soprano supreme Grace Dorsey Landy.

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